Nebraska is one of the top corn-producing states in the nation. In 2022, Nebraska corn farmers harvested more than 1.46 BILLION bushels. That’s a lot of corn!
What happens to all that corn? How is it used? It is used to make many important products, from food to fuel and much more. Here are five ways corn is used in Nebraska:
A large amount of Nebraska’s field corn is used to make ethanol, a renewable biofuel commonly blended with gasoline to reduce pollution. Each year, roughly 900 million bushels of corn is used to make ethanol in Nebraska, which is the second-largest producer of the biofuel in the United States.
Much of Nebraska’s ethanol is used in California, which is the largest market for renewable fuels in the country.
2. Livestock Feed
Another major destination for Nebraska’s corn is as food for the state’s livestock. Of the corn fed to livestock within Nebraska, more than two-thirds of that is used to feed beef cattle —which makes sense, considering Nebraska is a leading producer of beef. Many other livestock species, including hogs and chickens, also eat corn.
It’s important to note that livestock don’t just eat the corn kernels, they also eat sileage—a chopped up mixture of fermented corn plants—as well as distillers grains and corn gluten meal, which are byproducts of the ethanol-making process.
In addition to being used to make livestock feed and ethanol, field corn is also used for human food products like cornstarch and corn syrup.
And, while most of the corn grown in Nebraska is field corn, the state also is the nation’s No. 1 producer of white corn and popcorn in the country. Popcorn’s deliciousness is fairly obvious, but white corn is found in many corn-based products—including many popular Frito-Lay snack chips.
4. Biodegradable Products
From an ingredient in deicer used on icy roads to biodegradable cat litter, corn is used in a variety of products with many more potential products currently under development. Experts are even exploring how to use co-products from the ethanol-making process to produce biodegradable plastics, which could play a big role in reducing the problem of pollution from single-use plastics.
Corn also is used to make regular products such as paper, starch-based adhesives and is even found in diapers and in some vehicle tires.
While most of the corn grown in Nebraska is used to fuel cars and feed animals or people, some of it is used for research purposes. Those projects include subjects such as exploring better ways to utilize fertilizer, understanding what influences corn yields and finding ways to combat common corn pests. By researching these important subjects, we can learn how to grow corn more sustainably and also find new uses for this exciting crop!